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No word yet if women, children in detained group

Saturday, August 6, 2016
Trinis held on way to Isis in Turkey

Government was up to yesterday unable to confirm reports that the nine T&T nationals detained in Turkey include women and children.

New information on the group reached the T&T Guardian on Thursday evening. The nine were detained in Turkey on July 27. Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper reported the nine were held with a Syrian man who was allegedly taking them to Syria to be recruited by the Isis terror network. The nine were placed at the Turkish detention centre for provincial migration management at Adana, southeast Turkey.

National Security Minister Edmund Dillon subsequently said the nationality of the nine had to be confirmed and Government had put the matter in the hands of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and was awaiting word on whether the nine were in fact T&T nationals.

On Thursday, acting Attorney General Stuart Young said it was confirmed the nine were T&T nationals and they were still in Turkey, adding Government was awaiting a report on the circumstances of their detention 

On Thursday evening, the T&T Guardian learned women and children may be among the group, as well as men.

Contacted yesterday, Young was unable to confirm any such speculation. He said Government was awaiting an official report through diplomatic channels with Turkey.

Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert, also acting head of the National Security Council in Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s absence, meanwhile said the Ministers of National Security, Foreign Affairs and the AG were “actively seeking confirmation on the true status of the individuals in question.”

Imbert added, “That is, whether the nine are really involved with Isis in any way or were simply trying to make contact with, or join, family members in the region, or whether they simply overstayed their time in Turkey and/or they don't have valid visas or travel documents.” Dillon also yesterday echoed similar statements, saying a number of processes had to be undertaken in any country to obtain the necessary information to clear up a situation like that. 

“Government will not go with any type of speculation on the matter—we have to get the proper, official report,” Dillon said.

T&T’s honorary consul to Turkey, Nusret Comert, acknowledging queries, said he had liaised with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on it and would get back to the T&T Guardian. There was no reply, however. Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses did not answer calls.

Public must be notified

Former People’s Partnership security minister Gary Griffith yesterday underscored the need for transparency on the issue.

“The public must be informed about situations like these, lest fear set in. We’ve already seen several developments this week—including the calls by the T&T Isis fighter to attack Christians.

“If nothing is said on matters regarding security, the public would speculate all kinds of things—that the nine in Turkey are already back and ‘among us,’ that they’re ‘terrorists,’ all kinds of things. Saying nothing is not a good response in the global scenario. This is where the National Operations Centre is needed to play a significant role.”

Griffith added, “This situation shouldn’t be difficult to handle since T&T has links with Turkey, with which we worked in 2014 when we had to assist a mother and her two daughters return from Turkey.”

That family had been taken there in late 2014 by a male relative who was accompanied by two boys also. The three women appealed to the then government to return home and assistance was rendered on the basis that the trio had been “lured” to the Middle East in a case of human trafficking. 

They returned to T&T and were kept under surveillance. 

The man and boys went on to Syria, joining Isis. He was confirmed as killed in 2015. One of the boys was reported to have been killed also. Griffith said, “The other question is how the nine people got to Turkey since they couldn’t have gotten there on their own and people don’t go to Syria on vacation. So we know their intentions and therefore they must be closely monitored on their return as they would be seen as persons of interest.

“If they return to T&T via London, US, Panama, Brazil or Venezuela, the advanced passenger lists of the airlines will have the information on them before they land and pass it to T&T, so we’ll be updated.”

While the past PP administration co-sponsored UN Resolution 2178, which makes it an offence to commit a terrorist act, former PP attorney general Garvin Nicholas says, in his tenure (early 2015 to September 2015) discussions were ongoing about using the existing anti-terrorism legislation.

“Up to 2015 we’d been liaising with the DPP to see if to use the Anti-terrorism Act, but we didn’t have the opportunity to bring more laws,” he said.


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